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Community Protests Hanover County Confederate School Names

Hanover County School Board building
Protesters aim to get the attention of Hanover County School Board members, as they continue to push for two schools in the county to be renamed. (Crixell Matthews / VPM)

Patrick Larsen reported this story. 

Avi Hopkins rushed over 4,000 yards for the Lee Davis High School football team - a record that’s stood since he attended in the early ‘90s. But as a Black man, that legacy is complicated.

“Everyone’s yelling and screaming ‘Touchdown Confederates!’,” Hopkins said, recalling the crowds cheering for the team’s mascot.

But as a student, Hopkins felt he couldn’t make a change. 

“It was rather intimidating, if I’m being honest,” Hopkins said.

But now, he says he’s helping to make that change by taking part in organizing a demonstration on Juneteenth.

To observe the anniversary of when slavery ended in the United States, students, parents and advocates are planning to peacefully protest Friday afternoon, to call on the Hanover County school board to change the names of two public schools named after Confederate leaders: Lee Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School.

“What I’d like them to see is the number of people who are being impacted by these names,” Hopkins said, referencing the school board.

This demonstration is part of years of efforts by advocates, including Hopkins. The Hanover County NAACP recently sued the school board to change the names, citing the names as obstacles to participation in school activities by minority students. That case was thrown out by a judge in May, but the group is appealing the decision.

In 2018, the school board voted 5-2 to keep the names. Chairman John Axselle announced that the names will be discussed again at their next public meeting on Tuesday, June 23.

The protest begins on Friday, June 19th at 3:30 p.m. at the Mechanicsville Public Library. It will include speeches from local leaders including a call to action by VUU's Rev. Dr. John Kinney. 

On top of changing the names of the schools, protesters will call for more efforts to combat systemic racism in the county, and for the appointment of Dr. Jerome Ross, a pastor and philosophy professor, to the school board.

Editor's Note: We should disclose, Avi Hopkins is a host for VPM PBS's Legacy List.